It has been a whirlwind two days for the Atlanta Braves and team president Alex Anthopoulos. Anthopoulos pulled off a blockbuster trade Monday sending four prospects, including outfielder Cristian Pache and catcher Shea Langeliers, to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for first baseman Matt Olson. As they were preparing to introduce Olson in a press conference Tuesday, they made the announcement that he had agreed to an eight-year, $168 million extension that will keep him in an Atlanta uniform for most of the next decade.
Olson was arbitration-eligible for a second time this offseason and would have been eligible for free agency at the end of the 2023 season. Locking him up sets him up to be part of the Braves’ core for the foreseeable future.
“I’m very proud of what we have here in Atlanta. I know it’s a desirable place to play and that’s the environment that we have here,” Anthopoulos said. “The minute we made the trade, we told Matt, we are excited to have you and we want to keep you long term. I told him my next call was going to be to his agent, and we wanted to get serious about getting something done.”
Anthopoulos added that he called Olson’s agent and told him that the club was prepared to be aggressive and come with a big offer. They were looking to get something done in time for Tuesday’s press conference. Both sides worked late into the night, but were able to get a deal finished in time for Tuesday’s announcement.
“It was late night, it was long,” Anthopoulos said. “But I think it was important that once Matt got into this clubhouse, into this community, that everybody knew that this was a long term thing and he was going to be now one of our core players along with the Acuñas and the Albies, the Rileys and so on. He’s now part of this core, he’s one of the group and knowing that he wanted to be here was important to us. The fact that they worked with us in a short period of time. I’m really elated.”
Olson was a first round pick for the Athletics in 2012 out of Parkview High School, so he has plenty of local ties. Anthopoulos acknowledged that the hometown aspect could have played a part in Olson’s decision, but also that coming to a competitive club with a strong pre-existing young core was also a plus. Given the prospect package that the Braves gave up to acquire him, they were going to be aggressive to try and lock him up to a long term deal.
“We knew we were giving up a ton and we knew we were getting a great player,” Anthopoulos said. “So there’s no doubt our hope is that we’re gonna be able to keep them long term. I don’t want to speak for Matt, but a lot of times, being a good club is important too. I thought we had the best of both worlds. I feel good about it and obviously I knew we were going to be competitive from a financial standpoint and I’m glad to be able to get it done.”
Olson was asked when he learned that a trade might be happening and replied that he was called in by Oakland General Manager David Forst Monday and told that they couldn’t let him participate in the team’s first scheduled workout to prevent any chance that he might tweak something or suffer an injury. He traveled from Arizona and arrived at the Braves’ facility in North Port this morning.
“Getting here, it’s been definitely a whirlwind, but I’m happy this is happening and this is the place,” Olson said. “We knew this stuff was going to be quick here with the lockout and everything kind of compressed. I’d been hearing things all offseason about potential trades and things like that, so I kept it in the back of my mind that being somewhere else was probably more likely than staying in Oakland. It is a business. You have got to be professional and find a new spot to go play. I’m just excited to be here and get in the clubhouse, shake some of the guys’ hands and get out there tomorrow and start doing baseball.”
Getting traded was one thing, but signing on long-term was another. Olson described getting dealt and then getting presented with an extension offer as a blur.
“It was a whirlwind afterwards,” Olson added. “I think it was a quick decision. When you look at everything, every box is checked here. Win a World Series, got a young core, my hometown, my family lives in Atlanta, the list could go on and on. To be able to get a long deal done and in my hometown is something that I jumped at.”
Olson will be stepping into big shoes as he takes over at first base for Freddie Freeman, who is still currently a free agent. Olson acknowledged Freeman’s greatness and what he has meant to the franchise over the years, but said that he will just be focused on being himself.
“Freddie’s obviously an amazing player and it is just not going to affect what I come here and do,” Olson said. “I’m here to be Matt Olson. That’s all I can really control. So control the controllables, come out here, play my game and try to play some winning baseball.”
Sometimes coming home and playing in front of your hometown fans can be a difficult thing. Olson grew up a Braves fan and knows what to expect.
“My wife and I just bought a house and just got married in Atlanta. We are very familiar with the area and people around it and Braves fans,” Olson said. “So like I said yesterday in an interview, if I was going somewhere, this is the place I want to go.”